They started playing when they were 14 years old – a decade later they are opening concerts for huge bands, their guitarist Reeba was the first woman in the history whose original guitar was in the ESP Guitars catalog and they signed a contract with Roadrunner Records. They arrived to Warsaw three hours late, because their bass player Joe cut his hand the day before and decided to fix it with a Glue (seriously – don’t ask). Fortunately, I managed to talk with Jami Morgan anyway. After he threw off band’s drying socks from the sofa on the backstage I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
You are now on tour with Slipknot, right?
In a sense… We play three concerts with them and five by ourselves.
You played with many big bands – Deftones, Trivium…
Yes, System Of a Down… but they always offer us only a few gigs with such bands, never entire tour.
Today you are playing in a much smaller venue compared to the places where you performed as a support. How does it feel to come back to such small clubs after performing at the stadiums?
We play mainly in smaller halls. The biggest solo concerts we’ve ever played in America, was maybe for 1500 people? That’s how it looks. We started over 10 years ago from in very small places, so we’re used to it. I like to play stadium concerts, but I treat it more as an adventure, a challenge. Both situations give me so much joy, they are just different.
And what about the visual setting? Are there any differences?
The lights are made by our buddy who became interested in it. He’s from the Homewrecker band, it’s metal/hardcore from the USA. He’s getting better and better and do it in both situations. A lot depends also on the club’s equipment.
You are constantly on the road. Do you feel that because of that you are better in live performances?
Yes definitely! We practice a lot and play in very different conditions. Our debut at a stadium concert was three days in a row with System Of A Down. It was hard for us. We were confused, nervous and fuckin’ tired. We are very active on the stage and we’re running around a lot (laughs). Now we are in a much better shape!
It’s been two years since your last album Forever. So I think it’s time to ask about next one.
It’s almost done! It’s true, Forever has been released over two years ago, but we’ve droped a few singles along the way. Whenever we do not play concerts, we’re working on a new album. Actually we had a plan to not tour this summer, just work in the studio, but then we got a proposition to play a few gigs before Slipknot… we couldn’t refuse. We have to give a lot of concerts to reach people. We already had 12 tours in Europe, and there are still people who are coming to our gigs and never heard of us before. So you know, it’s a constant work.
I think the contract with Roadrunner has given you some visibility.
It is true! That place is great and I’m glad we got there. They helped us a lot. The point is that… we didn’t have a spectacular success over a night. We must fight for every inch of popularity. For every person who will come to our show. You know, we’re quite an unorthodox band…
What do you mean?
Well… the way of mixing, the fact that I’m the vocalist, but also the drummer, the fact that we all sing, and the songs are complicated or even chaotic… I like to think that it’s because we are doing something completely new. Or that we combine such different things with each other and that can be difficult. Let’s face it – it’s not as easy as it is for other bands – okay, I’m listening to this and this one, so I will definitely like this band. Such things do not happen to us, people who like one genre of music will most likely not like us. We opened concerts for many bands… for example Dillinger Escape Plan – half of the audience loved us, we sold a lot of merchandise, and the other half honestly hated us – you know what I mean? We polarize the public.
You are wearing a hat with Nine Inch Nails logo. The first thing I wrote down after watching your document “My World” was that it reminded me of Broken Movie. Was this intentional?
Oh yes, Nine Inch Nails is a band that has had a great impact on us. I think it may remind you of Broken Movie because of the gore stuff, but in general we wanted to get the effect of old video tapes… We made this movie mainly for fun, we just every now and then look for other ways to have fun with our creativity.
I’ve read that you guys live together. It is true?
Not everyone. Only me, Jon and Dom. The rest lives separately.
I wondered if you could separate your private life from the professional one.
There is nothing to separate. We do nothing but music, we have no private life. If we’re not on the road, we’re working on a new record, every day. All the time. It may seem heavy, but it depends on which side you look at. There are many other life paths that are much more difficult, less satisfying. In fact, I’ve always dreamed about it. It is this way: no matter what is waiting for us, we give our best and devote every aspect of our life to it. So if we do not get out, the only thing we can tell ourselves is: we gave it our best! If you do not give 100% of yourself, you will always have to live with it. You had an amazing chance and you blew it.
Each album is distinguished by a different color. How will it be with the new album? Do you already have a planned color, cover?
The visual part is very important to me, but I do not think it will always be a color – it’s not like we will use all the colors of the rainbow. The visual side for each disc must be solid, draw the mood prevailing on each album. Therefore, when designing covers for our last singles or EP, we had a lot of fun.
Well, that’s where you left the colors.
Exactly. We went there more plastic way. We explore different paths – one is the color scheme, another are visuals, and another – documentary. The more ideas are born in our head, the more roads are created. But back to the albums: with the colors we’ve built some foundations. Maybe if we did not do other things along the way – for example did not release the EP, I would like to do something else with another album and who knows, maybe I would screw everything up then? In this way, when we do a lot of other things and take lessons from it, we return to our main path much wiser. We have really learned a lot when it comes to presenting our material. What works and what does not work.
What does not work then?
I noticed that people that are listening to genres of music similar to what we play do not pay attention to anything but the album. Probably it also involves a lot of money pumped into the promotion of the album. We released several DIY singles. We wanted to see how it would go but also try a different way to present heavy music. It did not arouse much interest, despite the fact that the songs are as good as what is on the albums. Those who listened to them were happy, but it did not reach a large group of people. You know, we would play concerts, people would come up to us and ask – when will you release something? We just released! It’s frustrating. It was an important lesson. Maybe we have to have higher status for this type of things. I thought we could do this and that it would work. We still need to build our brand, be so recognizable that regardless of what we do, people will pay attention to it. We are not yet at this point. We need to develop so that people would care about us as much as I would like to.
It’s interesting, because I found myself listening to the last singles several times and completely forgot about them.
Exactly! I seriously think that these songs are awesome. If they were on the album, they would do much better. The Hunt, for example. We play it today, this is our heaviest piece. A lot of people do not know about it, but we’ve worked very hard on it. The promotion of this song was a great idea. We created panther-shaped USB disks, all our EPs were on them together with remixes and the documentary “My World”. We sent it to all the kids who played the game that we’ve made. It was a complicated game, if you reached the end, you had a window in which you had to enter your address. No one knew he would get some music from us. We sent these USB to the addresses we were able to collect, but it was not well promoted.
It sounds great.
I am very happy with this action and this game, but it did not work out as it should. The point is that you can not do such things if you do not have an already established position. But we’re just releasing a new album, so it should be ok.
Maybe you’ll add these songs to the new record?
No, they are designed to live in the environment in which they live. We think about albums as a whole, a certain narrative. The narrative has already been established and we can not disturb it (laughs).
You spend a lot of time together, some of you live together, you have grown up together… does this kind of relationship helps on the road?
Yes. We have unlimited trust in ourselves. There is really nothing that could break our relationship. We know everything about ourselves, we know our lives. No matter what happens, under what pressure we will be – we are indestructible, 99% of bands don’t have what we have. Sure, they know each other for a long time, get along with each other, but they are not a family. We are. And it will always be in the first place. Fortunately, we are all equally determined and we all care about the same. But if it changes, you will never see Code Orange with different members.
It’s beautiful what you say, but Slipknot said the same things. And look at them now – they argue about the money, many of them left the band.
Yes, but did guys from Slipknot grew up together? No! Corey joined them when he was about 30 years old. They are really great, they treated us so well. But as far as I know, this band was created when they were over 20 years old, they met through the scene. And probably they are like brothers, but… I met Reeb when I was 11 years old. Dom, who is “new” in the band I met when I was 12. Of course, if someone decides to leave and tells the rest that we should continue without him, that’s different. For sure I know that at one point we will need to take a break from ourselves, have some space. But I just can not imagine a situation that would break what is between us. If you meet someone who is already adult, you don’t know everything about him. You do not know its roots, you do not know where it comes from, what its moral code is. People don’t shape when they are 19 years old. The situations that happen when you are a child have the most impact on you. We have shaped each other, you know what I mean?
I think I know.
It seems to me that this is the basic difference between us and other bands. When I think about it now, I don’t know any band that met as early as us. Metallica – these guys were very young when they met, but NOT THAT young. It seems to me that this is the factor. Of course, we also argue a lot, but we have to deal with it.
I also read that you don’t drink.
Not everyone. Me, Reeba and Joe do not drink, but the rest do. It doesn’t matter to us.
So you don’t have fights about that?
No. You know, fights about drinking are not really fights about drinking. This is a problem that has been building up for some time and explodes after alcohol. We do not argue because we do not have anything to worry about – no one was ever fucked up before our concert. And if he drinks something, it’s just because the rest said it’s okay. I’m not afraid about behavior of anyone from the band because I know I don’t have to. They drink and smoke if they feel like it, but we never argue about it.
It often turns out that the bands I talk with are sober. Most do not drink, some practice yoga or mindfulness, they take care of themselves on the road. At the same time, I’m reading the biography of Al Jourgensen and I just can’t believe that this man is still alive.
Oh yeah, he’s a crazy fuck. You know, we like to have fun. We’re certainly not the yoga kind of people, but we maintain a good balance. We like to have fun together, spend time together. Maybe it’s a generational issue? Although we know people our age who can quite enjoy themselves. It turns out that we have a pretty solid moral code.
You do not have the impression that the metal scene is quite… “old”? That most of these bands are mentally still in the 90s?
Oh yes, totally. That is why we try to make our shows at the highest level, we play a lot of concerts, and we want to reach as many people as possible. The metal scene is dominated by old guys who just want to be with their families. Yes, this scene clearly needs fresh blood, because how long the same bands can be the stars of all festivals? It’s been 20 years, and you see the same names on line-ups. Of course, some bands manage to play a few gigs before such giants, but this also gives you no guarantee. We will try to get as far as possible without compromising our creativity. This is our goal. Get as far as possible without making concessions, without changing our vision. It is very hard. We perform as much as these huge bands! Now it is much harder. That’s why it’s so hard to mention any bands that have succeeded. Of course there are bands like Killswitch Engage in the 2000s, but nothing has happened since then.
Maybe you just play with wrong bands? The Slipknot audience is not necessarily your crowd …
Sure, you’re right. We also played with Daughters or The Dillinger Escape Plan. I would like to go on tour with younger bands, sure! I dream about a tour with Power Trip and Turnstile, that would be great! Maybe this is the jigsaw puzzle that is missing? Each of our bands has some crowd, maybe if we joined forces, something would come out of it? We never really played the whole tour as a support for the big bands we talked about earlier. People think so because it is well promoted. But with each of these bands we played three concerts. We played five gigs with Deftones in the middle of the country and there was not a single big city there. I would like to see what would happen if we got the whole tour with Slipknot. If we could present ourselves to all these people. Even if they do not respond positively, you get a lesson out of it. But we will never find out if we do not get the chance. You know what I mean? I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that it would be great to do something like that. And I would like to play with all these younger bands. I love Daughters, by the way! In particular I love what they did on the last album. They discovered their new sound, but all their aesthetics changed the way people look at them. This is a very important element of this game.
Alex recalled the times when they played concerts for several people. Nobody would came to their concerts.
I remember that! I was at their concert, there was literally 5 people. I was in high school then. But they finally succeeded. Because you know, it’s not just about music. It’s also about the cover, the image, the whole picture. Take away the cover – it will still be a great album, but I think less people would pay attention to it. It sets the tone for the whole image, music videos. It’s not just about recording.
I remembered anecdote about SOAD. Very long time ago they played in Poland as Slayer’s support…
…and people threw some shit at them? Yes, they told us this story.
And look where they got.
Yes, it’s a great story, but… it were different times! People no longer throw things at concerts. They do nothing. They are numb. More than once we managed the audience to react and I loved it, even yesterday before Slipknot people chanted, shouted, it was obvious that they liked it. We know that we are worth something. We do something completely different, we get inspiration from many sources. There is no band in the world that is like us.
You sound very confident when you say that.
I just feel it in my heart. As long as it is true for us, we will continue to do so. If we feel that the mission is impossible to complete, we will stop. It is not that we want to spin the reel to the end of our lives in the hope that more people will come to see us. We have a lot of ideas and we want to fight for them. I’ve seen a lot of bands like us, but none of them is us! If that’s how I feel, I do not see the possibility that something could go wrong. If we collide with the wall, we will collide with the wall. Then we will need to re-evaluate our ideas. So far we are in the right place and when we release the next album, we will change the rules of the game completely.
Why do you think so?
This shit sounds like nothing else in the world. I can not wait to see what will happen. This is our advantage over other bands – they are not able to do what we do. They have their lives, money… we have nothing. The only thing that we care about is this band. We don’t have a plan B. We devoted everything to music. Put all one’s eggs in one basket. Other bands can’t afford it because they have too much to lose.
I do not want to be misunderstood – all the bands that helped us did not have to do it! Corey Taylor… he came to the festival at 11am to see our gig. We played for nobody, and he stood at the side of the stage and watched us. You know what I mean? He got up in the morning, he left the hotel earlier… fuck, no one wants to do this! After the show he came up to me and said – man, I love your band. He gave me his number. When we were doing The Hunt, I texted him, the next day he recorded his parts. He did not want money from us, nothing. He is a really great guy who just wants to help. I will never say anything bad about him and the bands that helped us. I just know that if we finally manage to break this ceiling, reach people… nothing will stop us.